Neuhaus Neotec launches Le Belle Sorelle roasting concept

Just as siblings have their own identities but are still part of a larger family, drum and hot air roasting are two different concepts that still fall under the same roasting umbrella.

This is why when German manufacturer Neuhaus Neotec integrated the two roasting methods in one system, it named this concept Le Belle Sorelle, Italian for “beautiful sisters”.

“The idea came more or less from our customers. We were working with a German customer who wanted a drum roaster we had in our portfolio. We recommended our more versatile hot air roasting system, but he wanted to stay with the drum roaster because that’s what he was familiar with,” says Lars Henkel, Head of Marketing at Neuhaus Neotec.

“We thought to ourselves, ‘how could we convince this type of customer to choose a new system, which produces a wider range of coffees and aromas?’ We came to the conclusion that we can combine both roasters in one system, where they can share components.”

The Le Belle Sorelle roasting line features a joint receiving point and green coffee bins with blending scale that directs green coffee into one of the two roasters. The drum roaster L’Affascinante and hot air roaster La Selvaggia share a cooler and gas burner. Once coffee is roasted and cooled, it passes through one destoner into roasted coffee bins with a discharge unit.

Henkel says this single line reduces the cost of installing two machines and later, the price of operating them.

“If you want a drum roaster to produce the same quality each time, you have to run it continuously, or it needs to be preheated before each batch. If you have separate roasters and are switching between the two, you switch the systems off and on, and it’s a lot of wasted energy or downtime,” he says.

“Here, you can run the system continuously and switch between the roasting chambers. Its reduced energy consumption compared to two separate roasters and the lower investment cost is particularly important for small or specialty roasters.”

L’Affascinante, Italian for “the fascinating”, was named for its elegance, artistry, and the charm of traditional roasting. It can accommodate batch sizes of 10 to 70 kilograms with roasting times of 10 to 30 minutes, totalling a capacity of 240 kilograms per hour.

“People trust drum roasters and there is a demand for them because of the philosophy of doing it the traditional way. Additionally, often the roast master has known drum roasting for many years and understands how to achieve the flavours they want on one,” Henkel says.

“Some roasters also believe you can get a darker or smokier roast with a drum roaster. While this can be achieved with a hot air roaster, it is trickier.”

As the burner is removed from the drum rather than sitting underneath it, Henkel says L’Affascinante is capable of a more even heat distribution than is typical for drum roasters.

“There’s no hotspots at the bottom of the drum and you have a homogenously distributed heat,” he says. “It brings in hot air from outside the drum, so, in a way, it follows the idea of a hot air roaster.”

While L’Affascinante makes traditional roasting possible, “the wild” sister La Selvaggia opens the door for experimentation. The machine can roast batch sizes of five to 33 kilograms in four to 30 minutes, with a capacity of 240 kilograms per hour.

Using Neuhaus Neotec’s signature rotational flexible batch (RFB) technology, La Selvagiga’s roasting chamber contains no moving mechanical parts and instead uses jets of hot air to keep beans in motion.

“We are well known in the market for the RFB system. We’ve honed it for more than 40 years and it’s used worldwide,” Henkel says. “For the last few decades, we were focused on industrial coffee production. But as the specialty coffee industry grows, we see potential for RFB technology in this segment.”

As newer generations of roasters enter the industry and look for new opportunities, Henkel says they realise they are limited with what they can do with only a drum roaster.

“They hear more and more about hot air roasting and if you visit exhibitions, you see more small hot air units in the market,” Henkel says. “People who follow the ideas of high-quality, special roasting developments and flavour are gravitating to hot air roasting.

“We see all the advantages of using a hot air roasting system and our industrial customers follow the understanding that if you can roast faster with a wider range of profiles, you have better energy efficiency. Now the small players are finding out too.”

La Selvaggia also possesses a low heat storage, allowing for quick temperature changes throughout a roast profile.

“You want to accelerate certain moments in the roasting curve, for example, the drying period. This has no effect on aroma development, because it’s before the Maillard reaction. You cannot accelerate this process with a drum roaster, so with a hot air roaster, it’s much faster,” Henkel says. “Then at the Maillard reaction you can play with the profile and go to the limits of roasting. That’s what the younger generation of specialty roasters understand. They’re looking for new opportunities to get more flavours from the green bean. Hot air roasting provides this with better results and homogeneity of colour and taste.”

Both roasters are operated with a programmable logic controller with touchscreen interface. The controller stores recipes and displays roasting curve information during a roast. Henkel says this system allows for as much manual or automatic control as the operator prefers.

“You can work manually, as most roast masters do with the drum, or go fully automatic with hot air roasting. Our larger customers only require one operator for the complete roasting plant. They develop the profile, then trust the roasting system to follow it for every batch and that the quality will be the same,” Henkel says. “This applies to our smaller units too. We have a Russian customer who runs their NeoRoast RFB roaster fully automatically at full batch sizes seven days a week and trusts that the coffee will always be consistent.”

Henkel hopes combining the approachability of drum roasting with the versatility of hot air roasting will allow more companies to broaden their horizons.

“We showed the concept for the first time at HostMilano and it was a fantastic eyecatcher for the booth. Everybody knew the drum but there were many people who asked about the other roaster. This let us introduce hot air roasting and people were fascinated,” Henkel says.

“This is why we have both systems. If you like traditional slow roasting, you can do it here with the drum roaster, but the hot air roaster opens up a world of possibilities.”

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